Josh the new home AI

Photograph courtesy of JSTAR LLC

Amazon Echo - Photograph courtesy of Amazon

Everyone knows Siri the Apple Artificial Intelligence (AI) assistant. Being directly integrated in most devices of the Apple ecosystem gives it a large exposure but still many people find it gimmicky and not that useful. Echo, the newer and more popular solution from Amazon, with its Alexa assistant has become quite popular thanks to its "always on" speaker which removes the hassle of pressing a button. Where Alexa also stands out is its good integration capacities especially with Smart Home solutions like Nest, Philips Hue, Smarthings and Belkin Wemo to name a few.

The success of Amazon has clearly increased the industry focus on AI. Other large companies like Google, with the soon to be released Google Home speaker, and Microsoft with Cortana are joining the competition and will try to make their platform the most attractive and successful.

...you need to put quite some efforts in formulating proper queries

Limitations of current solutions

Competition is good as it will challenge each players to improve their solutions and provide unique selling points. To be honest, it is also needed as the era of mainstream AI hasn't come just yet.

I have only been able to use Siri so far as Amazon doesn't sell yet in the Netherlands. What is clear at this point is that you need to put quite some efforts in formulating proper queries. If you ask the same thing using different formulas, the result might not always be correct. You have to formulate simple questions making sure you use the right key words and avoid asking something the assistant cannot do. Reading reviews and feedbacks from the Amazon Echo gives a feeling that the solution might be a bit more polished and has more use cases. Most importantly, being a stand alone speaker with an always on microphone gives it the edge in terms of user interaction. Nevertheless, Alexa also has limitations as it lacks contextual understanding, abilities to operate multiple queries at once, etc. Google seems to take on the challenge seriously has the Home speaker promises to deliver on some of these gaps but then it's integration portfolio is still miles behind.

You can talk to Josh and ask multiple things at the same time

Clearly AI assistants are rapidly improving but there is still a long way before consumers adopt massively these solutions in their every day lives.

Google Home - Photograph Courtesy of Google

JOSH, another approach to AI

About a year ago I discovered Josh, a young startup that was working on AI solutions specifically for the home. Their product was in development  but they finally released their solution last September during the CEDIA trade show. I recently discussed with Alex Capecelatro, their CEO, who gave me more insights on their solution and agenda.

Where Siri, Alexa and others struggle is that they are extremely ambitious solutions with a huge scope. The team behind Josh decided to take another approach and completely focus on the high-end smart home experience. This fresh view on AI gives them the opportunity to learn fast and improve rapidly their solution. Being premium also gives them breathing space before going down on a more mainstream level. A similar go to market approach as Tesla used introducing first a sexy exclusive model S years before launching a more affordable model 3.

when used in combination with Amazon Echo you benefit from the always on microphones

What does JOSH do and how does it work?

Josh is a voice controlled assistant that unify all the connected and media solutions around your house. You can talk to Josh and ask multiple things at the same time which makes it feel more powerful than Alexa and Siri for instance. It also learns on the go and anticipate your needs.

At the beginning you can set things up or simply use the app (iOS and Android). If you own multiple connected solutions it will already make your life easier by combining all the functionalities into a single environment.

high-end means it won’t come cheap

The real deal of course is to talk to Josh and trigger voice commands by simply using your phone or tablet or even an Amazon Echo speaker with which Josh is fully compatible. The system will operate as a front-end above all the other systems basically. Its language processing technology is hosted on both local and cloud based servers so you can access remotely your home assistant. It does mean that you need to install hardware in your home (a mac mini) for the local server but it's mostly plug'n play.

As you can see in the videos, Josh system is quite powerful and clever and when used in combination with Amazon Echo you benefit from the always on microphones to simplify interactions. They are working on their own microphone and speaker solutions but it's still too early to predict specifications and a release date.

Currently only available in the US, the system has to be installed by a custom installer or system integrator. Not that Josh in itself is so complicated but its integration within your other control solutions might require a setup which is best done by a professional. Being language based, it will also take more time for Josh to roll out outside of North America but Alex confirmed that it's definitely on the agenda.

As per the cost, high-end means it won't come cheap so expect to spend similar money on a Josh solution as you would on a Crestron or Savant solution.

If you want to learn more about Josh, you should definitely visit their website or follow them on their various social media and blogging channels.


Special thanks to Alex Capecelatro, CEO of Josh.ai.



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